One way of telling when people think that Christmas is over is to look at the curbside in front of houses. When is the Christmas Tree discarded? I have noticed that some people must follow my brother-in-law’s reasoning because they discard their Christmas Tree the day after Christmas! Others seem to tie it into the New Year celebration as more trees are seen at the curbside on January 2. Still others seem to look at Epiphany, or “Little Christmas” as the end of the season. When I was a boy after the Feast of Epiphany , which fell on January 6th, we would take our tree and stick it in a snow bank in the backyard and throw any stale bread we had on it for the birds to eat in the cold winter days. When Pope Paul the VI revised the Liturgical Calendar he set the date for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord as the first Sunday after January 6th. Some countries though, like the United States moved the celebration of Epiphany from January 6th to a Sunday. The Sunday celebrations of Epiphany can vary between January 2 and January 8th. When Epiphany is celebrated on Sunday, January 7th or 8th, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated the next day, a Monday. The date of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord also varies each year depending on when we celebrate Epiphany, but it is never celebrated after January 13th. Whether it is celebrated on a Sunday or a Monday it marks the end of the liturgical season of Christmastide. On the following day the season of ordinary time begins and we are back into the green vestments. I usually begin to take down my Christmas trees and decorations then but this year I am planning on leaving them us longer, probably through January! It has been a dreary year in many ways I figure I might as well enjoy them a little longer.
As we celebrate this weekend the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord we are reminded of how the Holy Spirit came down upon Jesus as he was baptized in the Jordan. Following the lead of the Holy Spirit Jesus began His ministry on earth, a ministry that would lead to the ultimate giving of His life on the cross for us. The mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection opened for us the greatest gift of God’s love, the gift of the Holy Spirit. We have received this gift of God’s love through the waters of our own baptism, a baptism that calls us to be priests, prophets and kings for the Lord.
Like Jesus who responded to the call of the Holy Spirit to begin His life of service, we too are called to respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in giving of the gift of ourselves in loving service. We are called by the Holy Spirit to look at the blessings and talents that we have received from God and to follow the Spirit’s lead in offering them back to the Lord. As we enter Ordinary Time on Monday may we remember that the ordinary way that we are called to follow Jesus is to offer ourselves in service to one another and to our brothers and sisters throughout the world. And remember the season of Christmas might come to and end but the Spirit of Christmas will continue when we remember that Jesus is with us always! He is Emmanuel! God’s blessings and peace, Father Bill